Panama Closes Three Darien Crossings on the Border with Colombia

Darien River, Panama
by EFE

 

Panama has closed at least three of the crossing points used by migrants to cross the Darien River, which marks the border with Colombia, with a “perimeter barrier” in order to “channel” the flow of migrants and exercise greater control over this irregular route used by hundreds of people every day on their way to North America, Panamanian authorities reported on Wednesday.

Panama’s National Border Service (Senafront) said in a statement to which EFE had access that “measures were taken to control the massive irregular migration that the Panamanian State faces” in order to “channel irregular migration” to Bajo Chiquito, the first town that migrants reach after crossing the Darien jungle on foot for days.

These measures, he explained, are based on blocking “three unauthorized crossings used by irregular migrants, which are identified as the crossings along the Pacific coast and the Caribbean coast (…), as well as the land crossings that provide access to the Hito de Chucurti sector, the latter of which was blocked with perimeter barriers that prevent the passage of migrants.”

According to Senafront, “with the previous control, security forces were deployed at multiple points, which dispersed the efficiency in the fight against transnational criminal organizations that benefit from human trafficking, illegal payments and other crimes related to this vulnerable population.”

Now, “by concentrating efforts in a single step, the provision of territorial control patrols, protection and multidimensional security related to migrants is exponentially strengthened.”

Many migrants used to report being victims of robbery or rape by criminal gangs throughout the Darien.

In addition, the border police announced that the new government of José Raúl Mulino “is planning to launch a new campaign called ‘Darién’, which aims to guarantee a climate of peace and tranquility in this region of the country.”

Panama’s new president, José Raúl Mulino, already announced last Friday, during a tour of Darién prior to his inauguration, the placement of “cone fences” with “the aim of getting people to take the only route to get here, not scattered,” in addition to the presence of police in some areas of the jungle.

The closure of these unauthorized crossings or trails occurs in the midst of a large flow of migrants through the Darien jungle, through which more than 195,000 people have crossed this year, most of them Venezuelans, while in 2023 there were more than 520,000, an unprecedented figure, according to official data.

Mulino also referred to the Darien problem during his inaugural speech last Monday, the day in which Panama and the United States, the main destination for migrants, signed an agreement to repatriate the migrants, for which the North American country promised to cover the expenses.

The new Panamanian president has a strong discourse regarding migration through Darién, calling it “illegal” and had already promised during his campaign to “close” Darién, something that he later qualified as a “philosophical” concept of closure, in which more and more barriers are put in place to prevent migrants from following that route.

“Panama will no longer be a transit country for illegal immigrants. I will not allow local complicity,” he declared in his inaugural address.

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EFE reports for ADN America
Photo “Darien River” by Thierry Leclerc. CC BY-ND 2.0.


Reprinted with permission from ADN America.

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